Spanish Church leaders have deplored a new law making their country Europe's fifth to allow active euthanasia, and demanded that health workers be given the right to opt out of involvement.
“Causing death can never provide a solution to problems of suffering. We now need a strong movement for protecting life,” said Bishop Luis Arguello, secretary-general and spokesman of the Madrid-based Bishops Conference. “The conscientious objection of health workers not wishing to participate in this process must also be respected, while everyone entering a medical facility must be assured this is a place where personal care is exercised.”
The bishop was reacting to the Organic Law Regulating Euthanasia, tabled by premier Pedro Sanchez's Socialist party and its far-left Unidas Podemos coalition partner, which came into force in June.
He told a media conference Spain's Catholic Church had made its position clear on the controversial measure, which would put “added pressure” on patients “considering themselves a burden to their families”.
Meanwhile, another bishop said the Church would now step up a campaign, launched in January, to persuade citizens to sign a living will, protecting themselves against being involuntarily killed.
“Our wish to receive help in the last moments of life will be included in this, along with the presence of a priest to administer the sacraments,” Bishop Jose Munilla of San Sebastian told Spain's Catholic Radio Maria at the weekend. “Beyond stating our position in favour of palliative care and against euthanasia, this living will offer great help in facilitating the patient's spiritual accompaniment.”
The law, enacted in March by 202 votes to 141 in the Spanish Cortes, allows a family member or doctor to sign a euthanasia petition when a patient is incapacitated, and will apply to Spanish citizens medically proved to be facing chronic and incurable illness, who must be killed within 40 days of a certified and repeated request.
Speaking after its March passage, Pedro Sanchez vowed the law would make Spain “a more human, fairer and freer country”. However, the measure was deplored by Cardinal Carlos Osoro of Madrid as a “terrible moral rupture”, and deplored by the Bishops Conference, which warned in a March statement that “euthanasia is always a form of murder since it means one person is involved in the death of another”.
The Catholic Church makes up 62 per cent of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants, according to 2020 data. The Church has also criticised current government-backed legislation to secularise education and facilitate state-funded abortion, as well plans by local councils to remove Catholic crosses and monuments from public places.
In a declaration last week, the country's Catholic medical organisations, including the National Lares Federation, vowed to resist the law as a “disregard for human dignity”, while the right-wing Partido Popular and Vox parties said they would continue seeking constitutional arbitration against it. Spain's Associations for Life, Freedom and Dignity, incorporating 140 civil society groups, said they were also seeking support for counter-legislation to extend palliative care.
Spanish media said the new measure was modelled on existing laws in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, which allow euthanasia alongside Canada, Colombia and parts of Australia and the United States. Parallel legislation to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide in neighbouring Portugal was blocked by a presidential veto in February, while an assisted suicide bill was also tabled in January by centre-left parliamentarians in Germany.